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Apple iTunes Music Store sells 2bn songs

As forecast here

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Analysis It's nice to be right once in a while. Apple today announced it has sold more than 2bn songs through its online iTunes music store - just as Reg Hardware forecast almost a year ago.

To be fair, we said the two-billionth song would be sold "early 2007", so Apple's come in slightly ahead of our expectations. But it's close enough that we're happy with our back-of-an-envelope numbers, which we scribbled down not long after Apple launched iTunes outside the US.

Apple also said today it has sold 50m TV episodes and 1.3m movies, numbers that should give it some encouragement as it prepares to launch AppleTV, the renamed iTV iTunes-to-TV box it announced in September 2006.

But back to the music. At its current rate, ITMS should pass the 2.5bn mark in May this year and move past 3bn downloads by the end of the year - in September, we'd say.

All this is, of course, proof not only of the strength of the iPod but also that consumers really don't care too much about DRM and being tied to a single supplier as long as they can get the songs they want. The Plays For Sure vendors, with the claimed benefit of selling songs that will play on a variety of players, even collectively are almost certainly a long way behind ITMS.

Online music vendors' catalogues are all much the same, and the tight licensing terms extracted by the music labels appears to have prevented any price competition encouraging buyers to move from one source to another, a factor that might have helped the PFS firms and hindered Apple.

That Apple got it right and the rest - we might mention Microsoft, in particular - didn't is shown by the way hardware companies are now so clearly out to directly link their players to branded music stores. Microsoft's done it with Zune; Nokia too, by buying Loudeye. Samsung said last year it wants to set up a branded music store. Toshiba this week squeezed up even closer to MTV's Urge service. Zvue, which makes a low-cost media player sold through Wal-Mart, attributes its success not just to the sub-$100 price point but the tight link to its Zvue online content store.

All these companies are using Microsoft technology, of course, but the crucial thing is that they're not stressing interoperability rather establishing hardware and online store as two parts of the whole. In that respect, the technology that underpins them is irrelevant. ®

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